Upon entering the restaurant "Choi Jhal", the first thing you notice is how cramped it is.
The setting is not fancy, rather it has a very regular Dhaka restaurant feel.
However, when you receive a copy of the menu, you will find nothing common, at least to the taste of Dhakaiyyas.
Mutton, beef, chicken - everything is there on the menu, but all of the main dishes have "choi" as a prefix to it.
So it reads like, choi beef, choi mutton, choi chicken and so on and so forth.
Before reviewing the food, let us take a sneak peek into the world of "choi jhal".
The internet says choi jhal or Piper chaba as it is known in English, is a flowering vine, which is native to South Asia.
Popular as a culinary plant in southern parts of Bangladesh, Piper chaba is a creeper plant that spreads on the ground.
It may also grow around large trees. The leaves are oval-shaped and about two to three inches long.
Users cut down the stems and roots, peel off the skin and chop them into small pieces – and then cook them with meat and fish, especially with mutton.
The spicy, pungent choi jhal is a year-round additive spice.
So, choi jhal is supposed to be spicy. But how spicy?
You have to taste it to believe it.
For people who like spicy and hot food, the restaurant "Choi Jhal", might be the right place for them.
I ordered one portion of plain rice, choi beef and tomato bhorta (mashed tomatoes).
You can also order khichuri instead of plain rice. Also, variants of duck, mutton, chicken, and squab were available.
A delicious looking salad consisting of onion and dried chili was served on the house.
Also, as things were about to heat up, as a precaution I ordered soft drinks; Choi Jhal does not offer you any other drinks anyway.
While eating, I always look for three things – freshness, taste and presentation.
Let us start with the presentation.
After the initial serving of the rice in a bowl and bhorta on a plate, I had to choose the piece of choi meat I wanted from another cooking bowl, which was brought to me by the server. This was a new experience.
The food, as expected, was hot and smelled very flavourful. It was so hot that I could not delienate the other flavours on my tongue.
Everything, starting from the salad, the bhortas, and the meat was fiery hot.
I was sweating profusely and had to wipe my forehead and cheeks with a hankie at regular intervals during the meal.
So, my first tip: carry a napkin or a hankie before entering Choi Jhal.
Those who can stand spicy food would surely enjoy this nerve-numbing heat.
And honestly, people do, the crowded restaurant was proof of that.
About the food, if you can get around the heat, then you might find out that the food is decent.
I will however state that it is not something out of the ordinary. Yes, the heat makes it really special and makes it stand out. But that is about it. The bhorta tasted similar to the ones available in other popular restaurants.
The meat curries, which were their specialty, tasted like regular curries barring how fiery it was.
All the items, however, felt fresh and the manager assured me that they cook every day for their guests.
Also, there were dessert options of firni (rice pudding), and mishti doi (sweet yogurt).
The price range was also reasonable. A heavy meal for two can cost in the region of Tk 650.
So, if you are a fan of a lot of spice in your food, then this place should be on your bucket list.
But if you are not a spicy food lover, and do not want to take the wild ride, then eat at your own risk.